WHO unveils step-by-step guide to safe and dignified burials for Ebola victims

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In Guinea, UNDP supports a volunteer programme where local youths go into neighborhoods of Conakry, demonstrating hygiene practices. Photo: Nicolas Douillet/UNDP

Involving family members of people who have died from Ebola and encouraging religious rites are essential elements to ensure safe and dignified burials for victims of the virus, according to a new protocol by the World Health Organization (WHO).

WHO says that at least 20% of new Ebola infections occur during burials. The infection can be passed on when family and community members perform religious rites that require directly touching or washing the body.

Sally Smith, Community Mobilization Adviser for Faith Based Organizations at UNAIDS, says that infections can be reduced if there's more involvement of families of victims and their communities:

"We know what the public health practices actually are necessary to perform but we've got to listen to the communities to see it from their perspective. What are the religious and cultural practices that are essential to them and where the common ground is? What of those practices we can conserve and we can take in to the protocol and what are actually a source of infection? And by dialogue with those religious communities we can come to a place where they understand the need for those protective measures take that are clinically necessary but at the same time you can respect some of their beliefs, their values, their cultures, their traditions and involve them in those processes, in those dialogues, in those conversations, and actually in the burial itself."  (37″)

The guidelines set out 12 steps for burial teams to follow in areas affected by Ebola, including how to prepare the family for the burial process and how to place the body of the person who has died in a body bag.

Nicki Chadwick, United Nations, Geneva.

Duration:  1’40″

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